2012 Winner - Siena Lopez-Johnston

Open letter from Siena Lopez-Johnston

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Before sharing some information about myself and my goals, I would first like to thank the Jeter family, the independent panel of area educators, and those who made this opportunity possible without whom I would not have been selected as the 2012 recipient of the JoAnn Jeter Memorial Diversity Scholarship. I am honored and humbled to accept this scholarship considering the impressive quality and competition among applicants. Upon opening the letter and seeing the words “On behalf of the Jeter family, we are pleased to inform you…” tears came to my eyes; I was so proud to be the recipient and I knew that Jo would be equally as proud.

Last spring and summer (2011) I had the privilege to meet and work with Jo Jeter. Jo prepared me for and encouraged me to put everything I had into obtaining an AISES (American Indian Science and Engineering Society) internship with BPA in the Environment, Fish & Wildlife program. Thanks to her preparation and encouragement I was offered and accepted the internship which turned into the experience of a lifetime, spending a summer working at the Cle Elum Supplementation and Research Facility in Cle Elum, WA. Jo gave me further encouragement to continue at Bonneville in a STEP (Student Temporary Employment Program) position, which I did, and have since been converted to a SCEP (Student Career Employment Program) position. My STEP and SCEP opportunities would not be possible without Paul Krueger who actively worked with Jo and me, following my internship to bring me back to BPA to work for him in KEWM. I am currently working full-time at BPA until my master’s program starts at Portland State University (PSU) this fall.

As a child and now a young woman, I loved the outdoors, sports (playing and watching), and most importantly, my friends and family. I am an enrolled member of the Tolowa Tribe of the Smith River Rancheria in Northern California and my culture has been a source of pride for me throughout my life. I have always had a passion for taking on new challenges and learning from new experiences, especially those that are hands on. As an undergraduate student I took an interest in how natural processes occur and what affects them, which inspired me to pursue my degree in Environmental Science from the University of Oregon. The diversity in my undergraduate studies inspired me further to pursue my Masters of Science in the Environmental Science and Management Program at PSU.

Furthering my education is the most important feat in my life right now and this scholarship will help to fund my academic endeavors. It lets me know that I have support outside my family and friends in achieving my goals as a young Native woman both personally and professionally.

Upon receiving my graduate degree I plan to use the knowledge and skills I acquire to give back to both the Native and scientific community. I have worked in Native health for years (I previously was employed at the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board), so finding a way to connect culture with health and science is important to me and has been an idea for “diving in” to my thesis project next year at PSU. Beyond this, I am interested in pursuing my PhD in the future. And even beyond that, I would love to pursue a career with BPA Fish and Wildlife, continuing to take on new challenges.

I would like to close by once again saying thank you and how incredibly honored I am to have received this scholarship. And thank you to Jo for believing in me and instilling confidence in both my personality and my abilities as a student and worker, and for letting me know she thought I am wonderful. I will never forget her as a mentor or as a person; the time I knew her was short, but her influence still continues today and will carry on in my future.